LEANING INTO the uncomfortable—engaging with peers and vendors to gain expertise in areas where we have shortcomings—has been key to growing Phantom Technology Solutions and expanding our service offerings. For someone like me who’s more wallflower than natural networker, finding key people who I can rely on to bolster my knowledge helped me overcome “imposter syndrome.”
A biology major in college, my intention was to go to medical school. While working at a hospital, however, I pitched some ideas on how they could improve ID management and the accessibility of their electronic medical records software. Soon thereafter I dropped out of college and spent time working as an IT administrator, learning some lessons about service delivery and the sales process that I worked to apply and enhance when I launched my business in 2010.
Knowing what I didn’t know about running an MSP business, I started engaging with local business groups and then expanded to industry-focused events, attending as many as I could and eventually joining peer groups.
As an industry, we’ve gotten much better in recent years at revealing our vulnerabilities. People accept that it's OK not to know everything. It's OK to make mistakes, and we're all going to fail at something at some point. The key is having a network in place to help you respond to that, and then improve upon it. And then, of course, pay it forward.
Here are some examples of how Phantom Technology Solutions has benefited from connecting with the community:
New business. Peers have passed business to us in our market and in surrounding markets, either to leverage our expertise in certain areas of cybersecurity or where they need boots on the ground outside their service area. We have done the same.
Better accessibility to our vendor partners. I’ve made it a point to engage deeply with our vendor partners, offering candid and constructive feedback. They've been incredibly receptive to that, and if they implement changes or features that will enhance our effectiveness, that benefits our client base as well as us. That type of relationship gives us access to more resources, and greater visibility with higher-level people within the organization who can troubleshoot for our customers when needed.
A path to Azure. We've relied pretty heavily on Nerdio to educate our staff and help grow our Azure offerings. Their partner enablement for continuing education has been remarkable.
Getting up to speed with CMMC. Cybersecurity is driving cyber insurance changes, which is going to drive regulatory changes for our industry. Focusing on compliance is what I believe will put us ahead of competitors in the market and help achieve additional profitability for Phantom. Some of my peers who are further along in this journey than us have been instrumental in expanding our knowledge in this area and sharing what we’ll need to invest in terms of time and money. We’re already working with one of those peers to assist a client who had a deadline, because we knew we did not yet have the resources in place to meet their needs in that time frame.
Paying It Forward
A side project of mine has been developing a security tool for MSPs that will identify where products and solutions have gaps in the controls specified by security frameworks. I’ve been relying heavily on my peer network for feedback and testing. When it’s ready, probably early next spring, I will make it available as an open source tool for the community. I think it's important for our industry to expedite MSPs' adoption of security frameworks, so I’m choosing not to monetize it. It will hopefully benefit our community and lift the tide for all of us.
For me, community is not only a growth accelerator but gives me peace of mind as a business owner knowing that I have a network of people that I can draw on when I need them. Let’s say the worst thing happened to my business, a large ransomware incident. If we needed assistance with the response, I have no doubt the troops would rally.
Photo: Steve Toepp